Words by Lacy Kemp, and Evan Choltco-Devlin.
Many of you reading this may know Evan as a friend, Co-worker, riding buddy or may not know him at all. Chances are, Evan had a hand in designing the frame or components you are riding on today. Currently working at Contour, Evan is not a new face in the mountain bike industry. You also may have read a feature article about his trip to Peru in the March issue of Decline Magazine. The following is the story of Evan's remarkable recovery which would not have been as successful without the passionate support of the mountain bike community on his side.
It's hard to believe it's been 8 months since Evan's accident. It honestly feels like yesterday I was kneeling in the dirt in Cusco with Evan wondering if he was going to live. I can recall every tiny detail - the colors, the smell, the sounds, the wind, the endless fear. Not because I want to, but because it's etched in my brain forever. I can't even type this without getting emo. It was the most intense thing I've ever dealt with, but what's interesting is that while the accident and injury were incredibly scary, I've actually been able to pull some good things out of a horrific situation.
Never before have I focused so much on perspectives. It's crazy how something like this can make you appreciate little things. When Evan was able to sip water on his own, it was a big deal. When he took his first steps, told his first joke, and even dominated a meal of sushi, it was pretty much the greatest thing ever. Watching his face light up when I smuggled in coffee and Reeses felt awesome - because he remembered some of the little things in life that made him happy. He doesn't recall the weeks in the hospital, or some time after, but every one of those achievements felt massive to me.
The first day Ev and I got to ride DH together after six months away from the bike was great. The first day we stood together in the lineup at Whistler was even better. Following him down B Line for our signature chainless warmup lap actually made me choke up. It was kind of like the culmination of everything we've been through. All the waiting, hoping, talking about bikes, dreaming about bikes, dreaming about riding our favorite trails was finally a reality. Even better, he gets to rock a cool eye patch, and I get to draw on them.
|This experience has profoundly changed my life, and I'm not even the one who got hurt. It's made me really see what love, life, and an incredible community can do for your spirit. There's not a day that goes by where I don't think about how lucky he is, and then I realize that luck is only a part of it. It's the people that really believed in Evan that helped his recovery the most. It's helped my recovery. So, to the bike community that has been there every step of the way, thank you so, so much. - Lacy Kemp|
October 6, 2011 was the closest I’ve been to dying since being born six weeks premature. I was caught by the wind mid-jump on a road gap (read: donkey-cart path) in rural Peru. I landed too sideways, too heavy over the front wheel, and too far down the landing. I was launched over the bars and my hands only made it about six inches in front of my face before my head slammed into the countryside. Without a helmet, or even one as protective as my Urge Endur-O-Matic, the story would have ended here. Wayo, Miguel, Lacy, Sam, Nick, Rich, Amanda, Dave, and Dave all rushed to my side to help.
A helicopter was called in but to no avail, as winds were too strong. Thankfully a “4x4” ambulance was able to make the journey. With my good friend Lacy Kemp in back, our guide Wayo in the front seat yelling out the window and working the hand-crank siren, and dodging numerous chickens, carts, and people, we made it to the Cusco hospital. The doctors were originally afraid of a cracked skull, a brain contusion, a broken neck, and permanent neurological damage. As time went by and X-rays and CT scan results came in, many of those worries were calmed.
Once I was stable four days later I was air transferred to the Lima hospital where my dad was waiting for me. I was fully released nine days after the crash still unable to create new memories, extremely weak on my left side, and still have a seriously lazy eye. I was considered extremely lucky (though not out of the woods). At least that’s what I’m told.
As Lacy put it, I “face[d] an uphill battle getting back on [my] bike.” A long and difficult battle it was, but I won; we won. I say, “we” because without the help, love, and support of my family, friends, the bicycle industry, and you, the bicycle community, it wouldn’t have turned out nearly as well as it did. Friends showing up with dinner, visits and phone calls from family, new and replacement gear from industry friends and sponsors, kind words, a fundraiser with a line around the block, and (sometimes missed) high fives from the community were the weapons I needed to win the battle.
The past eight months could have so easily been lost to self-pity and depression. Instead it was long nights spent on the trainer and doing PT. It was cold, drenched days of trail building in the rain and snow. It was weekends away for mountain bike instructor training. Perhaps most of all, it was an unshakeable drive to be where I was, or better than I was, before the crash. Every day no matter what I was doing, be it spinning on the trainer or building a new line, I was being cheered on by tireless fans on the heckle rock of recovery.
My neurologist said I could start taking minimal risks with my head six months after the accident. April 6, 2012 was my first day biking outside since my crash, and I made damn sure that I did absolutely everything within my power to make that return as smooth as possible. Yes, I did it for myself, for my love of bikes and riding them, and the constant need to push my own limits. I also did it for you.
My first day back was simply riding to work with a great friend. Then a trail ride with 30 of the best wannabe pirates. Next, a day shredding downhill on trails I’d helped build and refine. Each of those and every ride after that, I’ve done for me and for you. I still have some recovery to go through, particularly my right trochlear nerve still needs time to heal so my double vision with subside. But every day on my bike is better than the one before, and every day on my bike is a bonus day in the truest sense of the term.
Absolutely none of this could have been possible without such amazing support. If you see a big dude with an eyepatch riding in the Pacific Northwest or the Whistler Bike Park, say hi or give me a high five. I’d love to express my gratitude in person and say, “Thanks!”